Many Agencies Serving People with Disabilities Closed
With no state budget deal in place, thousands of state employees remain idle as Minnesota continues to endure a partial government shutdown.
While critical state-paid services that affect Minnesotans with disabilities—including those provided by Metro Mobility, home health agencies, and hospitals—continue uninterrupted, many government programs and services are on hold.
While buses in the metro area will continue to run for a month without a budget deal, accessible transit in rural Minnesota for the elderly and those with disabilities is now unavailable. (Medical transportation rides are still available.) If you’d like to apply for Medical Assistance or Minnesota-Care, you’ll have to wait. No new applications are being processed. What about State Services for the Blind? Closed. Want to file a complaint with the Department of Commerce because you’re unhappy with your health plan? You can’t. Questions about how a job offer would affect your housing subsidy? Don’t call the Work Incentives Connection. They’re closed, too.
The Minnesota State Council on Disability, which fields up to 50 calls a day from all across Minnesota, is also no longer open.
“We’re a first call for help for many, many people, especially for those in rural Minnesota,” said Joan Willshire, the council’s executive director. “There are other resources out there, but a lot of what we do is to link people to those resources.”
You can still buy a fishing license at your local sporting goods shop, but you can’t use it at one of the state’s 70 state parks. They’re closed for business. Similarly, people with existing vocational rehabilitation plans and authorized services will continue to be served by community providers. But if you had a July appointment scheduled with a state vocational rehabilitation counselor, forget it. Rehabilitation Services offices within the Department of Employment and Economic Development has closed up shop.
Legislators completed some of their budget work, including funding for state colleges and universities, and public safety concerns. But human services and elementary education deals have remained elusive. So a state judge, former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Ed Stringer, was forced to decide which governmental services had to continue and which could be delayed until lawmakers resolved their differences.
“It is confusing,” said Jeff Bangsberg, governmental affairs director for the Minnesota Home Care Association. “I hope this can be resolved quickly so that we can return to business as usual.”
The Department of Human Services, in a June 21, 2005 letter to Medical Assistance recipients, wrote that “you may not be able to get some health care services” because, without a budget, the state “will not be able to pay for all health care services.”
State checks will still be cut to pharmacies, group homes, PCAs, home care agencies and nursing homes, so there’s no effect on individuals with disabilities who rely on these services. Any cash grants to individuals or food assistance from the state will also continue.
“But people need to check with their local clinic or dentist to see if they’ll honor an existing appointment or not,” said Joel Ulland, public policy director for the National MS Society-Minnesota Chapter. “The state has asked those health professionals to keep providing services, even though they won’t get paid for them until the shutdown is over. The truth is, they can say ‘no’ if they want to.”
Further information on the shutdown can be found at www.doer.state.mn.us.